John Kingshott of Greatham, Hampshire, England

John Kingshott is probably the most infamous Kingshott to be found on the internet. He was transported out to Van Diemen's Land, now Tasmania, in 1831 following his conviction for taking part in a machine breakers riot. His family, who he initially had to leave behind, joined him later.


John had a number of children and a significant proportion of the Kingshotts out in Australia today are his descendants. I will therefore provide some information on him, and in doing so point out some of the errors that have been written about him.

 

John Kingshott has usually been recorded as being born in Greatham, Hampshire sometime around 1796. Examination of the original parish register shows that there is no baptism at Greatham for him around that time. Looking at him again, upon his conviction he was said to be 36 years old. This would put him as being born around 1794. Again, there is no trace of his baptism. This is why he tends to be shown as being born around 1795 in Greatham and it was traditionally left at that.

 

I set about trying to find John's baptism and ordered the Greatham parish register on microfiche. A quick examination of the register showed that the only family of Kingshotts living there at the time were Francis Kingshott and his wife Lydia. More detailed examination revealed the baptism of John Kingshott, son of Francis & Lydia Kingshott, on the 1st January 1792. This is our man. He was obviously mistaken, or the reporters were, about his age. This was not uncommon in those days as age stood for very little.

 

John is also often shown on online trees as the son of William & Lydia Kingshott. This is also wrong. William & Lydia were alive at the time, but lived in Haslemere, Surrey. In addition, William & Lydia only married in 1796, quite some time after John was born.

 

Anyway, John grew up in Greatham and became an agricultural labourer. Recent research by Beverley from Melbourne has shown that he married a lady called Mary Robinson from the nearby village of Empshott. She was born at Empshott in 1802 and they were married there in 1819, though the transcriptions of the registers only record the year.

 

John's wife, however, was NOT Mary Small. This is another error that has spread around the world. A lady called Mary Small did marry a chap called John Kingshott, but it was not our man from Greatham. That John Kingshott was this John Kingshott's third cousin from the nearby village of Bramshott. 

 

John & Mary had five children at the time of his transportation in 1831. They were William, Mary Ann, Hannah, John & Francis. Click here for a Family Group Sheet for this family.

 

John's father Francis Kingshott was baptised at Greatham on 22nd April 1753 to a Thomas & Ann Kinshot who were married in Greatham on 17th December 1752. On the marriage record in the parish register, Thomas is recorded as "bachelor of Carford, Sussex" but I can find no such place. Click here for the recent (2012) work that I have done on fitting this Thomas Kinshot into the wider family.

 

The Swing Riots of 1831

What has been described as the greatest wave of protest machine-breaking in English history occurred in south-east England in the winter of 1830/31. The mythical leader of the machine breakers and rioters was Captain Swing who took his name from the moving part of the hand operated flail used to thrash grain from sheaves of harvested cereal crops. The rioters were known as machine breakers. The majority were farm labourers traditionally employed as thrashers during the winter months but that winter work was now increasingly being done by horse or steam powered thrashing machines. These machines were seen to be taking work from honest working men, and something had to be done.

 

A series of disturbances broke out in 1830 and the disorder spread throughout the southeastern and southern counties of England. These were collectively known as the Swing Riots. Unfortunately, John Kingshott played a part in one of these riots as, on Tuesday 23rd November 1830, he was present with a mob and stole loaves of bread, cheese and beer from a lady called Mary King, in the nearby village of Kingsley.

 

John was arrested, it would appear with great difficulty, on Sunday 28th November 1830. The vicar of Empshott, Charles Alcock, states in a letter that "almost all Greatham labourers are in custody", and says that John Kingshott in particular "made a great resistance and attempted the life of young Debenham." He was therefore taken into custody and eventually appeared at a special sitting of the Winchester Assize Court. This is the lengthy report from The Times Friday Dec 31 1830 p 3 Issue 14424. Click on the image to enlarge.

John was charged with "having, on the 23rd day of November last, at the parish of Kingsley, feloniously robbed Mary King of certain loaves of bread, some cheese and beer." As was common for the time he was sentenced to death, but this was shortly thereafter commuted to transportation to the colonies for life.

 

A petition from members of the Petersfield Friendly Society, dated 31st January 1831 on behalf of John Kingshott of the parish of Greatham, stated that he had always been considered "a sober and industrious individual, having a wife and five small children, and that he would have been forced to join the mob." The petition did no good and he was convicted of the offence.

John was received on the prison hulk "York" on 9th February 1831 and subsequently sailed to Van Diemens Land (now Tasmania) on the ship "Proteus". He departed Portsmouth aboard the "Proteus" on 14th April 1831 arriving in Hobart on the 4th August 1831.

 

This is John's listing on board the prison hulk HMS York. He is third on the list.

His description as filed in Tasmania, adds other personal information. Head - round, visage - oval, forehead - perpendicular, whiskers - black, eyebrows - brown, nose - medium length, mouth - wide thick lips, chin - medium length, fleshy underneath and arms - hairy.

It has been said that John was the second wealthiest man on the Proteus, having £10 10s with him, which in those days was enough to have bought him a passage home, had the law allowed it.

 

Once in Tasmania, John was at first assigned to the similarly named John Kingstall, but by 1833 was working for a Mrs Ann Bridger, who ran an hotel in New Norfolk. He worked as a farm labourer whilst learning the trade of blacksmith. Shortly thereafter an application was made to the authorities for his wife and children to join him. This was not unusual in those days.

 

The application was received in England, and on the 16th April 1833, the Reverend George Godbold of Greatham replied recommending the transfer. Unfortunately he sent the letter to Norfolk Island, a thousand miles away in the Pacific Ocean, instead of to New Norfolk and as a result of this epic failure, the letter took a year and a day to reach its intended destination!

 

By the 13th June 1834 an official request had been sanctioned, and in June 1835 the family finally boarded the ship "Hector", arriving in Hobart on 20th October 1835.

 

John & Mary Kingshott quickly made up for lost time and had a sixth child, Ellen, born in New Norfolk on 21st January 1837. Sadly, Mary was not to live very much longer and died in February 1839. She was buried on 1st March. John never remarried and lived on for another 27 years.

 

John applied for, and was granted, a conditional pardon on 5th April 1838. As with all such pardons the condition was that he never returned to England. The pardon was published in the Hobart Town Courier on Friday 6th April 1838. This is the notice that was published.

In the 1848 census John is shown as the proprietor and person in charge of an unfinished wooden house at Brushy Bottom, New Norfolk, employing one ticket-of-leave farm servant. The only other occupant was his daughter, Ellen.

 

Of his six children, all survived and married, and all but John the younger stayed in Tasmania. John followed his father's trade as a blacksmith, moving first to Melbourne in 1846, then to the goldfields near Castlemaine where he seems to have had some success.

 

John Kingshott died on 8th May 1866, age wrongly stated as 76 years, a farmer at O'Brien's Bridge, Tasmania. The informant of the death was his granddaughter Mary Ann Kinshott, the oldest child of John's son William.

Click here for a four-generation descendancy report for John Kingshott. It is privatised as there may still be some people living on this tree. Therefore, for data protection reasons, those people are simply shown as "Living".

 

The majority of the research into John Kingshott's descendants was initially conducted by Ann Knight and Marilyn O'Brien out in Australia.

 

If my theory as to the ancestry of John's grandfather is correct (see here) then John Kingshott would have been my 3rd cousin five times removed. 

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